Nor Will He Sleep by David Ashton

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Nor Will He Sleep by David Ashton

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Category: Crime (Historical)
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Ani Johnson
Reviewed by Ani Johnson
Summary: The Victorian Inspector James McLevy returns, this time enlisting the help of Robert Louis Stevenson no less. David Ashton's writing in the novel and the Radio 4 series is proof of why the world can't have too many cantankerous, Scottish murder investigators.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: September 2013
Publisher: Polygon An Imprint of Birlinn Limited
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1846972515

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Two opposing Edinburgh university student gangs are full of high jinks the night that Agnes Carnegie is found dead. Daniel Drummond, one of the merry-makers, is a prime suspect as he had an altercation with her and uses a silver cane that matches the murder weapon. Nothing is a foregone conclusion though and so dour, wily Inspector James McLevy of the Leith police is determined to uncover the truth. Meanwhile Robert Louis Stevenson is in town for his father's funeral and renews his acquaintance with McLevy which is rather fortuitous when we consider what lies ahead.

We all know that feeling when a book isn't as good as the play it originated from or a play is put to shame by the superior novel. Very rarely do we find complete satisfaction in both, therefore when it does occur it comes as a nice surprise. When are written by the same person it can turn into a delight as all the nuances and subtleties are also transferred between media. This is indeed a regular occurrence in the world of David Ashton as Nor Will He Sleep is the author/playwright's fourth McLevy and, although in our heads we fans hear the actor Brian Cox, the penmanship is pure Mr A.

James McLevy is a true professional, investigating crimes and pursuing justice so impartially sometimes it's to his own personal detriment. As he says in a particularly moving speech I have no family, I have no kin: I have nothing except the law and I will bring it to bear. What he does have is dogged determination and a bit of a twinkle as he seasons his dourness with a very dry but unmistakable sense of humour.

All the McLevy books work well as one-offs while also containing glancing references to the past for those of us who are hooked. Indeed, aficionados will want to know if McLevy manages to get it together with the owner of the local house of ill-repute and legendary temper, Jean Brash. Before reading this I was under the impression that we would need to bang heads together to encourage them. Has my impression changed any? Not saying!

This time out McLevy certainly shows he's capable of being affected by a pretty face, unfortunately for Jean it's not hers. However she doesn't seem to notice as she's busy forming her girls into a vigilante army to create one of the satisfying scenes I'll remember for a while.

McLevy's younger side-kick Mulholland is also back, understandably smarting from past emotional scarring and needing to counter a highly tangible (and dangerous) ghost from the past.

The inclusion of Robert Louis Stevenson also works very well, adding a dose of authenticity as we understand more about his writing process and witness the illness that will eventually become fatal. Ironically this also raises my one tiny dint of criticism: there are occasional anti-smoking comments that seem more in line with modern day zeitgeist than Victorian. Talking about contemporary, I loved the passing cheeky nod to Fight Club and hope it was intentional.

As in the best murder mysteries, there are a number of possible suspects with twists and shoals of red herrings to keep us consuming pages greedily. (Even if you can guess the killer, I'd be surprised if you can guess the cleverly convoluted motive.) With its real sense of the dark, dank seamy side of 19th century Edinburgh , this is just the thing for a winter's evening in and proof positive that McLevy, and indeed David Ashton, will be with us for a while yet.

A big thank you to Polygon for providing us with a copy for review.

Further Reading: If you like a Victorian murder mystery, we recommend The Mangle Street Murders by MRC Kasasian or, if you prefer it to be fiction based on fact, The Suspicions of Mr Whicher by Kate Summerscale is also excellent.

Buy Nor Will He Sleep by David Ashton at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Nor Will He Sleep by David Ashton at

Buy Nor Will He Sleep by David Ashton at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Nor Will He Sleep by David Ashton at


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